Hugs, kisses, and cuddles can be a perfect cure-all—studies show that affection may boost kids' mood, health, and confidence, says Kenneth Rubin, Ph.D., professor of human development at the University of Maryland. Maximize the power of touch:
Baby rubdowns help preemies gain weight faster and improve sleep quality.
Tell your child you love her during dinner, riding in the car, or after she makes you laugh.
Touch your kids even when they're acting naughty. If one sibling whacks another, for example, get down to his level, hold his hand or rub his back, and say "We don't hit. Hitting hurts!"
If your child just isn't a cuddler, you can still connect in smaller ways: Ruffle his hair, roughhouse with him (yep, this counts!), dance together, or exchange winks.
Be there when she fails
"Kids learn more from their missteps than their successes," says Kenneth Rubin, Ph.D., a professor of human development at the University of Maryland, in College Park. Let her make some mistakes—then listen, and give reassurance and cuddles.
Give hugs in good times—and bad
It's easy to be affectionate when your kid is being an angel, but it can be even more powerful to give him a big, loving squeeze after an argument.
Respect her limits
Try not to smother your child if she's annoyed by it, and don't force her to kiss or hug anyone she doesn't want to (Great-Auntie will have to get over it). You also needn't stress about being Super Affectionate Mom all the time to make sure your child feels loved. She does!